Case study: Returning Hindhead Commons to nature
2011 marked the end of a 20-year project to improve the road link between London and the south coast. Following completion of a new tunnel to bypass a notorious traffic bottle neck in the Surrey village of Hindhead, the old A3 has now officially been 'returned to nature'.
The old A3
The old A3 provided a substantial barrier to people and wildlife between the Devil’s Punchbowl on one side of the road and Hindhead Common on the other. Once the scar of the old road has healed, valuable lowland heath will replace the roar of traffic and drivers will no longer be stuck in queues through Hindhead.
Extending the tunnel
About Early Contractor Involvement
- the length of the bored tunnel was extended from 1.7km to 1.9km to reduce the impact on inalienable land in Tyndall's Wood
- the existing A3 around the Devil's Punch Bowl closed and was restored to heathland / woodland providing substantial nature conservation and landscape and recreation benefits
- the landscape impact of the Scheme at the northern end was reduced substantially with the removal of the Boundless Road junction and replacement with a new Boundless Road underpass and revised access arrangements to the Trust's properties in the Punch Bowl
- a new green bridge to carry Miss James Walk in Tyndall's Wood was provided giving access to cyclists, horse riders and wildlife as well as walkers.
About Hindhead Commons
- Hindhead Commons – incorporating Hindhead Common and the Devil's Punch Bowl - cover a total of 647.5 hectares (1600 acres) and comprise some of the most extensive areas of lowland heath in southern England. The area is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
- Sir Robert Hunter, co-founder of the National Trust, lived in Haslemere about 100 years ago. Shortly after forming the Trust in 1895, he organised a public subscription to purchase much of Hindhead Commons, one of the Trust's earliest acquisitions.
- The heath is dominated by common heather, bell heather, cross-leaved heath and dwarf gorse, with bracken and common gorse and grasses such as purple moor grass. Older woods and wood pastures of oak, holly, ash and beech occur in places, as in Highcombe Copse. Alder, willow and bog bean grow along the stream at Highcombe Bottom, with a series of small mires. Green, great and lesser-spotted woodpeckers can be seen in the woods, with nightjar, stonechat and woodlark on the heath. The valley bottom supports a rich insect fauna, and is home to rare craneflies.
- Grazing of the heathland by commoners ceased around the mid-1900s, which allowed the spread of birch, pine and bracken over the heather. However, this encroachment is now being reversed by a programme of active reclamation. Exmoor ponies and Highland cattle are now helping to restore and maintain these areas.